The most popular story for the origin of this surname is of the fabled battle-cry of a Gaelic speaking clan residing in the hills of Annandale. With frequent raids into English lands, they employed a yell of 'holy-day' (Old English: haligdaeg), presumably to bring them a blessed victory over the English. The small hill where they were accustomed to assemble on such occasions still retains the name of Halliday hill. The Old English word 'haligdaeg' derives from the words 'halig' (holy) and 'daeg' (day). Much of this account of the surname's origin is found in the 1863 book The Scottish Nation by William Anderson.

It was also suggested by researcher Clarence Halliday that the name might have more ancient roots. Roman invaders called the people of Annandale 'allodil', which might have translated from Latin as 'those who cultivate their own land'. The idea being that when the Roman legions penetrated the valley of Annan they were struck by the fact that the peoples there, a mixed race of peoples, lived on lands owned by themselves. That is, no feudal type system existed as the Romans were accustomed, but one more like a freehold tenure. The medieval Latin word 'allodiālis' is apparently the root for Allodial land title. The similarity of this Latin word to the Old English surname could indicate a corruption of the old word with the new meaning. Evidence for this interpretation is however admittedly thin.

Another possibility is that starting during the early Christian era it was a seasonal name originally given to someone born on a 'holy day' or religious festival. Other names conferred as seasonal names in a similar way were Christmas and Pask, or Pascall, for those born at Easter. Over time it eventually took on the form of a surname.

The unusual and interesting Anglo-Scottish surname is recorded in a wide variety of spellings. These include Halliday, Halleday, Hallday, Holyday, Hollyday, Halyday, the dialectal Harriday and the most popular of all, Holliday or Holiday.

Through manuscripts, researchers have confirmed the first documented history of the name in northern England and lowland Scotland. The Scottish King, Duncan (1034-1040), granted land near Moffat to a Halliday chieftain in the 11th century. One of the first recorded spellings of the family name is believed to be that of Reginald Halidei, which was dated 1179 in the 'Seals rolls' of the county of Bedford. There also is a written record as early as 1297 of Chieftain Thomas Halliday who built a castle or strong tower in the area at Corehead, near the source of the river Annan. Other recordings include; Adam de Halide, who was a juror on an inquest at St. Andrews in 1303, Thomas Holidaie in Suffolk in 1524, the marriage of James Halliday and Marion Henderson in Edinburgh, on October 1st, 1607, and Grissell Holliday in Corrysholme in 1634.

Additional information on the Holliday surname can be found with the Guild of One-Name Studies, by Elizabeth Holliday.



The Halliday surname is relatively uncommon. There are approximately 45,000 people holding the Halliday surname or variant in the world today, principally from Anglo-Saxon countries. From its ancestral home in the hills of southern Scotland, the name had found its way to England and Scotland before the 16th century. Later, Halliday families emigrated to the New World from both England and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. Our particular branch of the family did not leaves their roots in Dumfries until the early 20th century.

In the U.S., the Holiday variant of the surname outnumbers Halliday by 4 to 1. In the U.K. the names are more or less equally common, although the Holiday variant is found more commonly in England than Scotland.

The countries with the most prominent Halliday populations include the United States, the U.K., Canada, and Australia (approximate/estimated numbers).

Country Population
United Kingdom 14,500
United States 27,000
Canada 1,800


Coat of Arms

Under the traditions of English and Scottish heraldry, coat of arms are solely granted to individuals. They are not hereditary per se, and are strictly regulated by the UK College of Arms. They can be passed to direct descendants upon death (but only with minor changes), and are genuinely considered legal property of a single identity. This means it is very unlikely that a living Halliday could rightfully claim an association any particular Halliday coat of arms from the UK.

There are several different style of arms recorded for individuals of the Halliday family over the past few hundred years. It is not known definitively if our branch of this family can be directly traced to an arms, but it currently seems unlikely, although we quite possibly share a common ancestor. Perhaps with more research we will establish a link.

The arms shown here is based off of a 1608 design granted to a Sir John Halyday, a lawyer and nobleman in Fifeshire. His family bought Tulliebole Castle and lived in it for nearly 150 years until they were forced to sell it to pay debts. The colour of the sword tells us this version of the arms likely belonged to Robert Halliday, a descendant of the late 1700s. For more information on this arms and its differenced versions, Arthur Radburn has done a great job of compiling them all.

The description listed in the Alphabetical Collection, 1620 (cited by A System of Heraldry, 1722) is as follows;

HALLIDAY OF TILLYBOLE - Argent, a sword paleways the pommel within a crescent in base all Gules, and on a canton Azure a saltire Argent. Crest: A boar's head couped Argent armed Or.

When translated it describes the original arms as;

'HALLIDAY OF TILLYBOLE - Silver field, a red sword placed vertically with the pommel within a red crescent, and a blue square with a silver St Andrews cross in the top quadrant. Crest: A cleanly cut silver boar's head with gold teeth.'

Red (Gules) was used for fortitude and creative power. Silver (Argent) typically meant nobility or serenity. In UK heraldry a crescent is the cadence mark of a second son. The unusual display of the canton of the Scottish flag was said to be 'a reward' for service of the Tulliebole Halliday family.

The variation of the arms shown to the right is listed in Scottish Arms, 1881 as 'Halyday (Tillybole, North Britain)'. The motto was Dominus mihi defensio - The Lord is my defence.

There are at least 8 other somewhat related Halliday coat of arms listed in Fairbairn's Book of Crests of the families of Great Britain and Ireland, in 1905. Many of them however continue to use the vertical sword motif.

In England, members of the Holliday/Halliday branch of the family have had a separate visual tradition for their arms - three knight's helms on a black field. It is believed to have dated from Lincolnshire during the early 16th century where it might be attributed to a Robert Halliday. The first official grant of this arms was in 1605 to Sir Leonard Holliday of London, Lord Mayor and a founder of the East India company. For more information on this arms, Arthur Radburn has done a great job describing it as well.




The tartan is one of a modern Scottish family's most identifiable and endearing associations. The patterns are commonly worn by family and clan members as clothing in the form of kilts, scarfs, socks, and more to display their heritage and kinship.

Although these patterns have been created by Celtic peoples for at least 2000 years, the modern understanding of their usage probably did not come about until the 16th century. Prior to this many tartan patterns where more often associated with a particular region of Scotland where the cloth was produced than to a specific clan or sept. The colours of the tartan were traditionally more important than the pattern as there were derived from the local dyes. It wasn't until the 18th and 19th centuries when the 'tartans for every name' movement fueled the creation of many unique and complex patterns for clans.

Members of the Halliday family from Dumfriesshire would likely have worn the Galloway region tartan, displayed below. The left pattern depicts the pre-19th century colours and dyes. The right pattern use the modern colours from 1939 onward.

An official modern Halliday tartan was commissioned by John Halliday of Inverness in the late 20th century. It can be used by any member of the Halliday family. The tartan is based on the old traditional border shepherd's check also known as the Border Reiver tartan. The green and purple colours reflect the green and heather hills of Moffat and Ettrick, the Halliday's ancestral home, and the purple also remembers the role individual Hallidays played in the Covenanting religious wars of the 17th century. The right side image is an enlargement of the pattern.


Notable Hallidays

Andrew Halliday (1783-1839) - Physician, Scottish
Andrew Halliday (1830-1877) - Journalist, Scottish
David Halliday (1916-2010) - Physicist, American
Edward Halliday (1902-1984) - Painter, English
John Howell Halliday (1899-1990) - Surgeon, Australian
Leonard Holiday (1550-1612) - Mayor of London and Businessman, English



There is a Facebook group started by Halliday descendants in Australia.


Last updated November 2, 2011